How much influence will independents and minor parties have this election? Please explain


Chris Salisbury, The University of Queensland

For some time now, Australian voters have rattled the cage of the political establishment. Frustrated with prime ministerial “coups”, political scandals and policy inertia, growing numbers have turned away from the major parties.

Does this mean minor parties and independent candidates will have a significant impact on the coming federal election?

Anti-major party sentiment doesn’t usually disrupt the numbers in parliament by much. Only five of 150 seats weren’t won by the major parties at the 2016 federal election, despite a national minor party/independent vote of over 23%. But a nationwide minor party Senate vote of over 35% in 2016 resulted in a record 20 crossbenchers – helped by a lower quota bar at a double dissolution election.

Familiar groups and faces are well placed to capitalise on this sentiment during the current election campaign.




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Chasing the protest vote

Despite internal instability rocking its New South Wales branch, the Greens will hope to capitalise on growing progressive support (in Victoria especially) and an expected anti-Coalition swing to secure Senate influence.

Yet with recent Senate voting rule changes being tested for the first time at a normal half-Senate election, the Greens may in fact struggle to retain, let alone build on, their current nine Senate spots. Final Senate seats in most states will be fought over by a slew of (mainly right-wing) minor parties.

Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party (UAP), Pauline Hanson’s One Nation (PHON), and – unlikely as it seems – Fraser Anning’s new Conservative National Party will chase the “protest vote” in all states and (apart from PHON) territories.

But intense competition for the conservative vote means they and other minor parties stand only an outside chance of winning lower house seats. One exception is Bob Katter likely holding Kennedy in north Queensland for his eponymous Australian Party.

Still, an expected high minor party vote will keep the major parties – and the media – focused on preferencing arrangements throughout the campaign. These preferences will likely play a key role in electing minor party candidates to the Senate, potentially returning familiar faces like One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts from Queensland.

Deference to preferences

Recent opinion poll results have unexpectedly placed Palmer’s party ahead of the field of minor parties on the right. Months of saturation advertising, it seems, have imprinted the billionaire’s messaging on voters’ minds. Yet this sudden poll prominence, like Palmer’s billboard pledge to “make Australia great”, is largely illusory.

Nevertheless, both major parties have responded to this seeming upsurge in UAP support. The Coalition has hurriedly concluded a preferencing arrangement that sees Palmer and Prime Minister Scott Morrison somewhat “reconciled”. The deal might deliver much-needed preferences to Coalition MPs in marginal seats, particularly in Queensland. It also increases the chances of Palmer candidates – and the man himself – winning a Senate seat.

But these are big “maybes”. Minor party voters are renowned for following their own preference choices. In 2013, voters’ preferences from Palmer’s United Party candidates split only 54% the Coalition’s way.

Clearly stung by the attention being shown to Palmer, Hanson has announced PHON will preference Labor last in some key marginal seats held by Liberal incumbents. That includes Peter Dutton, whose seat of Dickson is under siege. In 2016, PHON took a different approach when it preferenced against sitting MPs, costing the Coalition its hold on Queensland seats like Herbert and Longman.

As part of the same deal, PHON will exchange preferences with the Nationals – whose leader Michael McCormack claimed “it just made sense” – lifting the Nationals’ hopes in marginal and at-risk regional seats.

Labor has also sealed a deal to boost its chances in marginal Victorian seats, concluding an arrangement with Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party. This will see Labor how-to-vote cards in tightly contested seats like Dunkley and Corangamite suggest second preferences go to Hinch’s Senate candidates ahead of the Greens (repeating Labor’s approach at the 2016 election).




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The reputational risks of preference deals

But doing preference deals with minor parties carries reputational risks, as former Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett has warned. As has often been the case with personality-driven outfits, choosing suitable or qualified candidates easily brings minor parties undone.

Anning’s party has already stumbled badly. A pair of candidates in Victoria and the ACT has been called into question, and a party supporter allegedly assaulted journalists in Sydney.

Hanson’s party, no stranger to this pitfall, is still hosing down the controversy of the Al Jazeera taped conversations with party insiders, which has likely cost the party some support. Freshly released video footage has now forced Queensland Senate candidate, Steve Dickson, to resign in disgrace, in another blow to the often shambolic party’s standing.

Palmer’s candidates are similarly coming under scrutiny with doubts raised over citizenship qualifications, putting legitimate doubts into voters’ minds just as pre-polling has commenced.

Familiarity is key for independents

The best chances for independents are in lower house seats, yet there’s been only a dozen elected to parliament in the last several decades. Those who’ve broken through in election campaigns, like Kerryn Phelps at last year’s Wentworth byelection, typically benefit when there’s some controversy or ill-feeling towards an incumbent or their party.

But in the absence of full-on media glare of a high-profile by-election contest, Phelps might struggle to hold her seat – assuming the angst of local voters over Malcolm Turnbull’s deposing has dissipated.

Personal profile and high media interest puts Zali Steggall in with a chance to unseat Tony Abbott in Warringah. Likewise, a well-organised local campaign structure such as “Voices for Indi” behind Cathy McGowan’s hopeful successor, Helen Haines, can make the difference – though transition of support from one independent to another isn’t assured.

Newcomers on the ballot paper generally find the odds against them. Candidates with an established record and voter recognition, such as Andrew Wilkie in Tasmania’s Clark (like the Greens’ Adam Bandt in Melbourne and Centre Alliance’s Rebekha Sharkie in South Australia’s Mayo), enjoy an easier path to reelection.

Similarly, Rob Oakeshott is given a good chance of winning the New South Wales seat of Cowper from retiring Nationals MP, Luke Hartsuyker. He carries strong name recognition from his time as Independent MP for the neighbouring seat of Lyne.

But recognition alone mightn’t be enough for Julia Banks, the former Liberal MP for Chisholm in Victoria who is now challenging in Greg Hunt’s seat of Flinders. Her decision to preference Labor’s candidate above Hunt might turn away potential support from Liberal-leaning voters, yet could put the seat within Labor’s grasp.




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Minors and independents cloud the outcome

The chances of an “independent tide” sweeping several seats this election is unlikely, in part due to the ability of major parties to drown out the competition. And counter to long speculation about the “march of the minors”, there could in fact be a reduced crossbench in both the lower house and Senate.

But voter dissatisfaction with the major parties persists, and minor party preferences are likely to play a critical role in many seats.

The prominence of minor parties will maintain an air of unpredictability for the remainder of the campaign, clouding an election outcome many saw not long ago as a foregone conclusion.The Conversation

Chris Salisbury, Research Associate, The University of Queensland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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How the major parties’ Indigenous health election commitments stack up



File 20190430 136807 4nqv25.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Government policies on Indigenous health have so far largely failed in closing the gap.
From shutterstock.com

David Coombs, UNSW and Diana Perche, UNSW

Eleven years after Australia adopted the Closing the Gap strategy, many pressing First Nations health issues remain unresolved.

The gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous life expectancy, currently 10.8 years for men and 10.6 years for women, is actually widening.

Similarly, the target to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous child mortality has not been met. The Indigenous rate of 164 deaths per 100,000 children aged 0-4 years is still 2.4 times the non-Indigenous rate of 68 deaths per 100,000 in this age group.




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The causes of Indigenous health inequality are complex. They stem from social determinants such as employment, education, social inclusion, and access to traditional land, rather than strictly biomedical causes.

Government policies have a critical role to play here. But funding cuts, policy incoherence, and governments retaining control over resources and decision-making explain why the gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous health outcomes are not closing.

Regardless of who wins the federal election on May 18, these enduring health issues affecting Indigenous Australians will require sustained and concerted policy attention.

A look at the major parties’ policy promises reveals some signs of hope, but also plenty of room for improvement.




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The Coalition’s commitments

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups criticised the lack of Indigenous-specific health measures in the Morrison government’s first budget detailed in April.

The budget did include A$35 million for First Nations solutions to family violence, and A$10 million for the Lowitja Institute for health research.

Indigenous youth suicide remains an urgent policy concern, with Indigenous children five times more likely to die in this way than non-Indigenous children. A coronial inquest recently identified complex causes including intergenerational trauma, poverty, and problems stemming from the home environment.




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The Coalition’s budget committed A$5 million over four years to address Indigenous youth suicide. This figure has since been increased to A$42 million following criticism from First Nations organisations and advocates.

Meanwhile, the budget directed A$129 million towards the expansion of a cashless welfare card system that operates in a number of Aboriginal communities. The card quarantines 80% of welfare recipients’ income for use in government-approved stores, and on government-approved items, to prevent spending on alcohol, cigarettes and gambling. This decision was taken despite a lack of evidence these cards reduce social harm or public expenditure.

The government also made some pre-budget commitments around Indigenous health. These included:

The Coalition also honoured a previous commitment of A$550 million for remote housing in the Northern Territory.

The Morrison government deserves some credit for its part in reaching an agreement between the Council of Australian Governments and a coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak organisations in December 2018.

This agreement commits governments and Indigenous peak bodies to shared decision-making and joint accountability in devising and working towards new Closing the Gap targets.




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Labor’s commitments

In keeping with its election campaign emphasis on health spending, Labor recently announced a A$115 million Indigenous health package.

The package includes almost A$30 million to reduce Indigenous youth suicide and mental ill-health.

It also offers A$33 million to address rheumatic heart disease, a preventable condition that disproportionately affects Indigenous children. The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) highlighted rheumatic heart disease as one of ten Indigenous health priorities for this election.

Labor has also promised A$20 million for sexual health promotion in northern Australia, A$13 million to combat vision loss, and A$16.5 million for the “Deadly Choices” initiative, which aims to prevent chronic disease through education.

Further, the opposition has announced a compensation scheme and healing fund for surviving members of the Stolen Generations and their families. This could help manage the effects of intergenerational trauma.

What’s lacking

Both parties’ funding commitments must be assessed in the context of the 2014 budget cut of more than A$500 million dollars to Indigenous affairs by the then Coalition government, which only the Greens have committed to restoring.

Impacts have been severe for specific programs, especially those run at the community level. These include youth services in Maningrida (NT) and employment and training programs in Inala (Queensland).

Funding for crucial Indigenous health infrastructure and capital works is also lacking, with the current shortfall estimated at A$500 million. Many Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services are run from old buildings in desperate need of upgrades to accommodate increasing patient numbers and rising demand for services. The Coalition recently announced an incremental increase to infrastructure funding, but much more is needed.




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Neither the Coalition nor Labor has made any substantial commitment to a national Indigenous housing strategy. Inadequate, insecure and poor quality housing worsens physical and mental health through overcrowding, inadequate heating and cooling, injury hazards, and stress.

Similarly, both parties have been silent on reducing poverty in Indigenous communities. Poverty is another social determinant that contributes to Indigenous physical and mental ill-health, as well as high incarceration levels.

What about self-determination?

Labor has stated it will prioritise Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations as the vehicles for delivering much needed health services.

As the Close the Gap steering committee’s shadow report emphasised, “when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are involved in the design of the services they need, we are far more likely to achieve success”.

The Coalition has been silent on the issue of community control, and funding reforms under the Indigenous Advancement Strategy and the Indigenous Australians’ Health Programme have destabilised the position of Aboriginal organisations.




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Community control is threatened by the government’s focus on competitive tendering, where First Nations organisations compete with “mainstream” service providers trying to secure contracts to deliver Indigenous health services.

Neither the Coalition nor Labor has outlined a response to these structural issues.

A final verdict

It’s difficult to identify major differences between the two parties’ Indigenous health promises. The likely impact of these polices is also hard to gauge given the significant role played by state and territory governments in service delivery.

Labor has promised to support Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations but specific details have not been announced. Labor’s significant funding pledge for rheumatic heart disease, though, makes their Indigenous health offering perhaps slightly more likely to achieve health gains than the Coalition’s.




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Why are Aboriginal children still dying from rheumatic heart disease?


The Conversation


David Coombs, PhD candidate in Nura Gili Indigenous Studies, UNSW and Diana Perche, Senior Lecturer and Academic Coordinator, Nura Gili Indigenous Programs Unit, UNSW

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Explainer: how does preferential voting work in the Senate?


File 20190501 142962 1uylkic.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1

Shutterstock

Stephen Morey, La Trobe University

Editor’s note: This is an updated version on an article that was published in 2016 when the new Senate voting rules were first introduced.


The voting system for the Australian Senate combines both preferential voting and proportional representation counting.

This system produces an upper house comprised of eight electorates (six states and two territories), each represented by multiple senators. As a group, these senators much more fairly represent the diversity of opinions in their electorates than the system in the lower house, where each of 151 electorates is represented by only a single member.

The election for the Senate on May 18 will be the world’s largest-ever election using this system, known technically as “proportional representation using the single transferable vote”. We will elect six senators in each of the states, and two senators in each territory.




Read more:
How the major parties’ Indigenous health election commitments stack up


The key features of Senate voting

  • you have one vote

  • you can express preferences for candidates in the order you prefer them, writing 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and so on

  • if the candidate for whom you vote “1” is elected with more first preference votes than the quota needed for election, the surplus votes received are transferred to the next chosen candidate at a value that ensures as much as possible of your voting power of one vote counts towards electing a senator

  • a quota is the number of votes a candidate requires to be elected. In each of the states, in this half Senate election, the quota is 1/7 of all the formal votes plus 1

  • if the candidate for whom you vote “1” fails to be elected, the full value of your vote passes to the candidate to whom you gave your “2”. And if that candidate fails to be elected, to your “3” and so on

  • the number of candidates elected for each party is, as closely as possible, directly proportional to the support that party’s candidates receive after preferences

  • a big majority of voters will be represented by either a senator they voted “1” for, or a senator they gave an early preference to.




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So, what do Australians need to know when they go to vote to choose their senators in this year’s federal election?

The ballot paper requires you to choose from one of two ways of marking it. Voting above-the-line means that you let your vote support parties’ candidates in the order on the ballot paper, whereas voting below-the-line means that you decide the order in which you support candidates.

The order is important because the chance of a candidate being elected decreases the later his or her name appears in that order of priority.

Voting above-the-line

The instructions on the ballot papers will tell you that a valid above-the-line ballot will show at least six party boxes, numbered 1 to 6, for at least six party groupings. However, your vote will have potentially more effect if you number more boxes.

In the example below, if you put a “1” in the Liberal box, the first Liberal to gain from your vote will be Malcolm Turnbull, then secondly Alexander Downer, then Tony Abbott, and so on. If you are a Liberal voter that wants to put Tony Abbott first, you can do this, but you have to vote below-the-line (read on for how to do that).

The example we show here is a formal (valid) vote that places the major parties last. This voter supported first the “Climate Sceptics”, but then ranked other minor parties and then the larger parties in the order: Liberal, Labor, Green.

Click to zoom.
CC BY-ND

It could happen that when this voter’s preferences are finally transferred, all the candidates for the first six parties chosen had been elected or excluded. Their vote is then used to help decide the final contest, between Labor and the Greens – in this case favouring Labor. But if the voter had not numbered all the boxes, their vote would have become exhausted: in other words, not further counted towards the election of a candidate.

An above-the-line “vote savings provision” means that even if you mark only one box, your ballot will still be counted. But (for example) if you had marked “1” in the square for Climate Sceptics – and only that square – and the Climate Sceptics candidates had failed to get enough votes to remain in the count, your ballot would have become exhausted, meaning your vote did not count towards electing a senator.

That is why it is best to number as many squares as possible.

Voting below-the-line

Below-the-line voters rank individual candidates in the order such voters prefer. You will be instructed to number at least 12 boxes below-the-line.

Suppose you are a Liberal voter, but you don’t like the order of the Liberal candidates on the ballot paper. You may number the boxes of the six Liberal candidates in any order – provided the numbers are sequential and each numeral is different.

If you then want to preference the Shooters and Fishers candidates (numbering 7 to 12), then Palmer United candidates (numbering 13 to 18), but dislike the remaining parties, you may leave their candidates’ squares blank. Your ballot is still formal and will be counted – as in the mock voting paper below.

Click to zoom.
CC BY-ND

Suppose you want to support particular candidates from different parties – and want to rank Penny Wong, Sarah Hanson-Young and Jacqui Lambie ahead of all the other candidates. You may certainly do that – again provided your ballot includes 1 to 12 and those preferences are sequential.

Click to zoom.
CC BY-ND

You might want to rank everyone except the main parties first. Let’s say that you also prefer the Hemp Party and Socialist Alternative first, but then want to vote for the Shooters and Fishers. If you then think Labor is the least bad of the main parties, the best way to use your ballot is to preference all of the small parties’ candidates and then Labor’s. That way, even if all the smaller parties’ candidates are excluded from the count, your next choice gains the value of your vote.

Note that you can rank the candidates of a particular party in any order. In the example below, the voter prefers Donald Trump to the other Shooters and Fishers candidates.

The more genuine preferences you express, the more likely a candidate you favour will be elected rather than one you disfavour.

Click to zoom.
CC BY-ND

The rules allow a vote to be counted provided that the first six consecutive numbers are 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. If you omit or repeat a number, the ballot will still be counted. So a ballot that has the preferences 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13 would be formal – but only preferences one to nine would count.

Your vote is most effective when you express as many preferences as you can or want to – either below or above the line.The Conversation

Stephen Morey, Senior Lecturer, Department of Languages and Linguistics, La Trobe University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Explainer: how does preferential voting work in the House of Representatives?


Stephen Morey, La Trobe University

At the May 18 federal election, voters in every electorate of Australia’s House of Representatives will have a choice of multiple candidates. Preferential voting means that we rank candidates in the order that we prefer them.

So, how does preferential voting work?

Voters must number every box on the ballot paper. You can number them in any order, but you must number each of them. So if there are eight candidates, you must number one to eight inclusive.




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How much influence will independents and minor parties have this election? Please explain


You don’t have to follow how-to-vote cards

Supporters of political parties hand out “how-to-vote” cards that advise voters how to fill out their preferences, but you certainly don’t have to follow them. You can still vote “1” for that party’s candidate, but change the order of your later preferences.

For example, suppose you want to vote for the candidate of the Liberal Party, and it recommends that you vote “1” Liberal and “2” for the candidate of the United Australia Party (UAP), led by Clive Palmer. If you don’t like the UAP, you can still vote Liberal “1”, and mark your other preferences in any order you choose.

As long as each candidate receives a different preference, your vote is formal (valid). And as long as you vote “1” for the Liberal party candidate, your vote is still a full vote for the Liberals.

What a valid vote looks like

Let’s take an imaginary electorate that has the following candidates.

Below are a number of possible ballots:

  • in column A we show a ballot for the Liberal Party candidate that next preferences the National Party, then the United Australia (Clive Palmer’s party), and then the Christian Democrats. Note that all eight boxes must be marked

  • in Column B we show a ballot for the ALP candidate

  • in Column C a ballot for the Greens candidate that next preferences the Animal Justice candidate, and then the Liberal candidate.

All those ballots are formal, because they mark all the numbers on the ballot paper in sequence.

If a ballot paper repeats a number or does not number each of the boxes, then it is informal and cannot be counted. So all voters are advised to be careful, and number each of the boxes on the ballot.




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Key mistakes to avoid

Here are some examples of informal ballot papers that cannot be counted.

  • in Column D, the numeral “5” is repeated, so the ballot is informal

  • in Column E, two boxes are unmarked, so that ballot is also informal

  • in Column F, there is gap in what should be a sequence of consecutive numerals, so that ballot is also informal.

Why do we have preferential voting?

The basis for preferential voting is that the winning candidate must receive at least 50%, plus one vote, to be elected. In other words, the winning candidate is supported by at least half the voters.

The candidate who has the highest number of votes at the first stage of the count (first preferences) does not necessarily win. It can happen that a candidate with fewer first preferences, nevertheless goes on to win. The most notable case was at the 1972 election in the federal division of McMillan, in rural Victoria:

Although the Labor candidate had received the highest number of first preference votes, he did not reach 50% and was not elected.

Because of that, the candidate with the smallest number of votes, Buchanan, was excluded from the count, and the second preference of each of his ballot papers was transferred, with the same effect as first preferences, to the candidate marked “2”.

This left four candidates in the count. If, at this point in the count, the cumulative total of one of the candidates continuing in the count had exceeded 50% of all ballots, that candidate would be declared elected.

That did not happen, so the continuing candidate with the fewest votes, Houlihan, was excluded. That led to the transfer of Houlihan’s ballots to the candidates marked as the next available preference.




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When both Buchanan and Houlihan had been excluded and their ballots transferred, the third count was as follows:

Because Barrie Armitage was now the lowest-polling candidate, he was excluded from the count, and his ballots were transferred to the two continuing candidates, according to the next available preference on each ballot. The final result was:

Note that the winning candidate is not necessarily the same as the candidate that received the most first preference votes. The preferential system ensures that the candidate elected is the one preferred by the majority in each electorate.

In the case of McMillan in 1972, Henry Hewson was the candidate preferred by the majority. The full details of this count can be found on the excellent Psephos website

In Australia, thanks to preferential voting, our House of Representatives members are each elected by an absolute majority of the voters in the electorate they represent.The Conversation

Stephen Morey, Senior Lecturer, Department of Languages and Linguistics, La Trobe University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Facebook videos, targeted texts and Clive Palmer memes: how digital advertising is shaping this election campaign


Andrew Hughes, Australian National University

This year’s election will be the first in Australia where the parties will be advertising more on social and digital platforms than traditional media (TV, radio, newspapers and magazines).

There are a few key reasons for this. First, cost-wise, social media is far cheaper, sometimes as low as a few cents per click. Unlike heritage media, digital and social is extremely targeted, and can be done in the “dark,” so your opponents may not even be aware of the message you are pushing out.

Digital and social advertising can also be shared or even created by users themselves, further increasing the reach of a party’s messaging. This gets around the Australian Electoral Commission rules on advertising – technically they are not ads since no party is paying for them to be shared on people’s feeds.

Throw into the mix laws on political advertising – which allow parties to advertise up to and on election day on social media, but not traditional media – and we are likely seeing the first largely digitally driven election campaign in Australian political history.




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Election explainer: what are the rules governing political advertising?


Here are a few ways the parties are using advertising in the campaign so far and what makes this election unique:

What you can do with A$30 million

Among all the candidates running this year, perhaps no one has used political advertising as prolifically as Clive Palmer. This shows what money can buy.

The most recent Nielsen figures put the cost of Palmer’s ads since September at around A$30 million, though Palmer says himself he’s spent at least A$50 million. This compares to just A$16 million spent in total advertising during the last federal election, with Labor and the Coalition accounting for more than 90% of that.

From a campaign perspective, Palmer is ticking many of the right boxes: a mix of different platforms on digital and social; heritage media ads for mass market awareness featuring candidates selected from the middle; the use of memes and user-generated content; and even text messaging.

This United Australia Party ad has over 2.4 million views on YouTube thus far, making it the most viewed election ad on the platform.

Despite the ubiquity of his ads, though, Palmer is still struggling to connect with most voters. This demonstrates a very important aspect to any advertising campaign: the actual brand still needs to be seen as offering real value to voters.

The UAP has used text messaging like this one below, for example, to try to change its negative perception with voters by delivering positive campaign promises.

UAP text message advertisement.
ABC

The ‘Grim Reaper’ strategy and micro-targeting

One of the most effective ads ever done in Australia was the “Grim Reaper” AIDS awareness campaign in 1987, which showed how well “scare campaigns” and negative messaging can work, given the right context and framing. The ad’s micro-messaging was another aspect that worked so well: it personalised the issue and made it tangible to anyone sexually active.

Basically, negative messaging works on the theory that what you fear, you will avoid – or the “fight or flight response”. Negative political ads highlight the level of risk and consequence of a certain party’s policies – and then emphasise how to avoid this by not voting for them.




Read more:
Why scare campaigns like ‘Mediscare’ work – even if voters hate them


Trouble is, most ads on TV are losing their potency. As attitudes towards political messaging and brands become increasingly negative, voters are less likely to watch ads in their entirety. Many people also don’t see them as being personally relevant.

Social media, though, provides an excellent delivery mechanism for these types of messages. Digital ads can be personalised and focused on issues that voters have already expressed an interest in and therefore find relevant to their lives.

Personalised messaging from the LNP on Facebook, targeting voters in the seat of Ryan in western Brisbane.
Facebook Ad Library

Social media ads can also be altered to be even more targeted as the campaign goes on, based on voter responses. And their speed of production – only taking a matter of hours to produce and place online – allows digital advertising to do what heritage no longer can and provide a more fluid, grassroots dynamic to campaigning.

This ad by Labor featuring Prime Minister Scott Morrison in bed with Palmer, for example, was released on social media within 24 hours of the preference deal struck between the Coalition and Palmer’s UAP.

Labor’s Facebook ad depicting Scott Morrison in bed with the UAP’s Clive Palmer over their preference dealing.
Facebook/Click here to watch the video

That said, even on social media, negative advertising is not as effective if it just comes from the party itself. But when combined with information from third-party sources, such as from the media, this can increase the effectiveness. For example, the Liberal Party used the 10 Network image in this ad to support its claims on Labor’s tax policies.


Facebook Ad Library

Youth engagement

Youth voter enrolment is at an all-time high in Australia, driven, in part, by engagement and participation in the marriage equality plebiscite in 2017.

The major parties are aware of this and are creating ads specifically targeting this demographic on Snapchat, WhatsApp and Instagram. Some of these are “dark social” ads (meaning they can only be seen by the target market) or are user-made so not to be subject to disclosure rules.

For more general audiences, Labor has created ads like this one on Facebook that highlight issues young voters are concerned about, such as wage increases and penalty rates. Ads like this also attempt to engage with these voters by asking them to sign petitions – a form of experiential marketing that’s proved highly effective with young audiences, as seen through platforms such as Change.org.

Labor Facebook ad inviting voters to sign a petition demanding a higher wage.
Facebook Ad Library

Groups like the Australian Youth Climate Coalition are tapping into experiential marketing by combining online advertising with a call for offline action on issues that appeal to young voters, such as climate change. Part-rock concert, part-protest, these events might remind some of the rallies that proved so popular during the Gough Whitlam era.

The AYCC is using a combination of online and offline strategies to engage with young voters.
Facebook Ad Library

The increasing influence of lobbying groups

One of the more interesting developments of this election so far is the increasing sophistication, knowledge and strategies of political lobbying groups, or Australia’s equivalent to America’s PACs.

GetUp! is one such group, collecting A$12.8 million in donations in the last 12 months alone. Among the group’s tactics are direct phone calls to voters, partly achieved through “phone parties” where volunteers freely offer their time, phones and other resources to call people in targeted electorates. GetUp! has a goal of making 1 million phone calls in the lead-up to the election.

A GetUp! video ad encouraging voters to host ‘calling parties’

Other well-funded groups, such as the right-aligned Advance Australia, are also seeking to influence the narrative in the election, particularly in electorates like Warringah, where it has released ads against Tony Abbott’s challenger, Zali Steggall.

In part to counter the influence of lobbying groups, the Australian Council of Trade Unions has launched its own advertising campaign featuring working Australians describing how hard it is to make ends meet.

The ACTU’s “Change the Government, Change the Rules” campaign.

The rise of these groups in Australian politics opens a Pandora’s Box on just who can influence elections without even standing a single candidate – an issue that’s becoming part of politics now in many Western democracies. As many in politics would know, where there is money, there is power, and where there is power, there are those who are seeking to influence it.The Conversation

Andrew Hughes, Lecturer, Research School of Management, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

View from The Hill: Victorian Liberal candidates find social media footprints lethal


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Whether or not it’s some sort of record, the Liberals’ loss of two Victorian candidates in a single day is way beyond what Oscar Wilde would have dubbed carelessness.

Already struggling in that state, the Victorian Liberals managed to select one candidate who, judged on his words, was an appalling Islamophobe and another who was an out-and-out homophobe.

The comments that have brought them down weren’t made in the distant past – they date from last year.

Jeremy Hearn was disendorsed as the party’s candidate for the Labor seat of Isaacs, after it came to light that he had written, among other things, that a Muslim was someone who subscribed to an ideology requiring “killing or enslavement of the citizens of Australia if they do not become Muslim”. This was posted in February 2018.

Peter Killin, who was standing in Wills, withdrew over a comment (in reply to another commenter) he posted in December that included suggesting Liberal MP Tim Wilson should not have been preselected because he’s gay.

Scott Morrison rather quaintly explained the unfortunate choice of Killin by saying “he was a very recent candidate who came in because we weren’t able to continue with the other candidate because of section 44 issues”.

Oops and oops again. First the Victorian Liberals pick someone who didn’t qualify legally and then they replaced that candidate with one who didn’t qualify under any reasonable test of community standards.




Read more:
Politics with Michelle Grattan: Tim Colebatch on the battle in Victoria – and the Senate


It’s not just the Liberals with problems of candidates with unacceptable views, or bad behaviour.

Labor’s Northern Territory number 2 Senate candidate Wayne Kurnoth, who shared anti-Semitic material on social media, recently stood down. Bill Shorten embarrassed himself on Wednesday by saying he hadn’t met the man, despite having been filmed with him.

Then there’s the case of Luke Creasey, the Labor candidate running in Melbourne, which is held by Greens Adam Bandt, who shared rape jokes and pornographic material on social media. He has done a mea culpa, saying his actions happened “a number of years ago” and “in no way reflect the views I hold today”. Creasey still has his endorsement. Labor Senate leader Penny Wong has defended him, including by distinguishing between a “mistake” and “prejudice”.

It should be remembered that, given the post-nomination timing, these latest candidates unloaded by their parties have not lost their spots or their party designations on the ballot paper.

As Antony Green wrote when a NSW Liberal candidate had to withdraw during the state election (after a previous association with an online forum which reportedly engaged in unsavoury jokes) “the election goes ahead as if nothing had happened”.

It won’t occur this time, but recall the Pauline Hanson experience. In 1996, the Liberals disendorsed Hanson for racist remarks but she remained on the ballot paper with the party moniker. She was duly elected – and no doubt quite a few voters had thought she was the official Liberal candidate.

What goes around comes around – sort of.

This week Hanson’s number 2 Queensland Senate candidate, Steve Dickson, quit all his party positions after footage emerged of his groping and denigrating language at a Washington strip club. But Dickson is still on the Senate ballot paper.

While the latest major party candidates have been dumped for their views, this election has produced a large number of candidates who clearly appear to be legally ineligible to sit in parliament.

Their presence is despite the fact that, after the horrors of the constitution’s section 44 during the last parliament, candidates now have to provide extensive details for the Australian Electoral Commission about their eligibility.

Although the AEC does not have any role of enforcing eligibility, the availability of this data makes it easier in many cases to spot candidates who have legal question marks.

Most of the legally-dubious candidates have come from minor parties, and these parties, especially One Nation, Palmer’s United Australia Party and Fraser Anning’s Conservative National Party are getting close media attention.

When the major parties discovered prospective candidates who would hit a section 44 hurdle – and there have been several – they quickly replaced them.

But the minor parties don’t seem too worried about eligibility. While most of these people wouldn’t have a hope in hell of being elected, on one legal view there is a danger of a High Court challenge if someone was elected on the preferences of an ineligible candidate.

The section 44 problems reinforce the need to properly fix the constitution, as I have argued before. It will be a miracle if it doesn’t cause issues in the next parliament, because in more obscure cases a problem may not be easy to spot.




Read more:
View from The Hill: Section 44 remains a constitutional trip wire that should be addressed


But what of those with beyond-the-pale views?

At one level the fate of the two Victorian Liberal candidates carries the obvious lesson for aspirants: be careful what you post on social media, and delete old posts.

That’s the expedient point. These candidates were caught out by what they put, and left, online.

But there is a deeper issue. Surely vetting of candidates standing for major parties must properly require a very thorough examination of their views and character.

Admittedly sometimes decisions will not be easy – judgements have to be made, including a certain allowance in the case of things said or done a long time before (not applicable with the two in question).

But whether it is the factional nature of the Victorian division to blame for allowing these candidates to get through, or the inattention of the party’s powers-that-be (or likely a combination of both) it’s obvious that something went badly wrong.

That they were in unwinnable seats (despite Isaacs being on a small margin) should be irrelevant. All those who carry the Liberal banner should be espousing values in line with their party, which does after all claim to put “values” at the heart of its philosophy. The same, of course, goes for Labor.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Vital Signs: the ‘ball-tampering’ budget trick they don’t want you to know about



File 20190418 28103 iz9jvq.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Just not cricket: Politicians make promises but obfuscate how those promises will be paid for.
Shutterstock

Richard Holden, UNSW

The first week of the federal election campaign has been dominated by heated disputes about the numbers behind both government and opposition policies.

Both sides are under pressure. Notably, the cost of Labor’s 45% emissions-reduction target has been rightly questioned.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten’s answer to reporters that “our 45% reduction, including international offsets, has the same economic impact as the Liberals’ 26%” didn’t exactly engender confidence.

But the folly of Labor’s environmental plans is another tale for another column.

Our focus here is on how the Coalition is going to cut personal income tax by A$158 billion and balance the budget.

Wild assumptions

Earlier this week the Grattan Institute pointed out the Coalition’s budget assumption that expenditure will fall from 24.9% of GDP in 2018-19 to 23.6% during the next decade amounts to cutting spending by more than A$40 billion a year in 2029-30.

This raised the natural question of exactly where those cuts will come from. According to the government, it’s from things such as lower welfare payments and lower interest payments on government debt.




Read more:
Your income tax questions answered in three easy charts: Labor and Coalition proposals side by side


The Grattan Institute’s Danielle Wood described these assumptions as “heroic”. Yup.

Now, you might wonder why the Coalition’s plan to cut personal income tax doesn’t fully kick in until 2025. Or, for that matter, why its “enterprise tax plan” on corporate tax is scheduled to be phased in over a decade.

Playing outside the rules

The short answer is that for the four years following a budget – the so-called “forward-estimates period” – there are rules about banking spending cuts.

During those four years, cuts need to be specified, or economic parameters need to be varied. And with good reason. That way the actual assumptions the government is making, however fanciful they may be, are plain for all to see.

But beyond the four-year period no such discipline applies. This allows governments of all stripes to make very specific claims about, for example, tax cuts they plan to deliver without having to be at all specific about how they are going to pay for them.

This is all just a conjuring trick. Politicians try to get us to focus on the tangible, specific thing we want – tax cuts, more money for hospital or schools, free cancer treatment – while obfuscating how they are going to pay for it.

It’s dirty pool. It’s not cricket. It’s the kind of thing a mob accountant does. Pick your favourite metaphor.

Bipartisan failure

Of course, treasurer Josh Frydenberg and finance minister Mathias Cormann didn’t invent this unscrupulous practice. Wayne Swan and Penny Wong, as treasurer and finance minister respectively, were guilty of these kind of shenanigans too.

The specifics of the current round can’t even be debated properly, because ten-year “guesses” don’t lay out specific assumptions that can be checked for internal consistency and plausibility.

Sadly, it seems futile to hope for cultural change among politicians and a shift to integrity.

To some extent, we need to be the change we want.

The fact both sides of politics so brazenly play us for suckers is as much our fault as it is theirs. If politicians thought there were real consequences at the ballot box for this sort of behaviour, they would think twice.

But there aren’t. When both sides are guilty it’s understandable that voters become so cynical that they just factor it in and look to other issues.

If more voters were willing to make “cooking the books” a decisive issue, that might change.

Need for incentives

Politicians respond to incentives. My favourite illustration of that is how United Nations officials used to be exempt from parking tickets in New York City. As economists Ray Fisman and Ted Miguel showed, when norms alone governed behaviour, officials from corrupt countries basically parked wherever they wanted. Once city authorities got the ability to confiscate diplomatic licence plates of violators, things improved radically.

So as long as the mainstream media refuses to issue our politicians with the moral equivalent of parking tickets for cooking the books of public debate, politicians are going to keep doing it.

Now, many commentators do exactly that – and some of them are brilliant and fearless. But other folks, on the right and on the left, seem to have the attitude that both sides play fast and loose with the facts so it’s fine for them to call out whichever side they personally like the least.

Actually, scratch “seem to have the attitude”. They’ll tell you that to your face.

When Australian cricket captain Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner got caught in a ball-tampering racket, there were consequences.

When our elected representative do something similar, but with our nation’s finances –with consequences for growth, employment, welfare benefits, retirement incomes, and climate change – they get a pass.

That’s got to stop; and we’ve all got our part to play.The Conversation

Richard Holden, Professor of Economics, UNSW

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Business-as-usual record on transport leaves next government plenty of room to improve


Marion Terrill, Grattan Institute

This article is part of a series examining the Coalition government’s record on key issues while in power and what Labor is promising if it wins the 2019 federal election.


Election season means transport season: just as the recent New South Wales and Victorian elections gave us massive new transport promises, so too is the federal government relying on the enduring popularity of new roads and rail. But look beyond the rhetoric and the past three years have been largely business as usual. That leaves plenty of room for the next government, of whatever colour, to take a fresh look at how transport promises are made – and plenty of room to improve.

Last week’s federal budget committed to transport expenditure of A$7.4 billion in 2019-20, and A$33 billion over the four-year forward estimates period.




Read more:
Budget transport spending is about par for the course, but the pattern is unusual


The government claims it’s spending a record A$100 billion over a decade. Yet the opposition claims: “Across the four years of this budget, Commonwealth investment in infrastructure actually falls, from A$8 billion to A$4.5 billion.” And Infrastructure Partnerships Australia says recent budgets are down on the long-term average by about A$11 billion over the forward estimates.

How much is the government actually spending?

With such polarised views, who are we to believe?

In reality, the expenditure for 2019-20 is absolutely normal. At 0.37% of GDP, it’s close to the midpoint of spending on transport under treasurers Scott Morrison, Joe Hockey and Wayne Swan. In each of the past ten budgets, annual transport spending in the year following the budget has been 0.26-0.53% of GDP.

What is different is the extent of promises that lie beyond the forward estimates period. The move to a ten-year pipeline of promises might be fine in theory, but an interested elector can rely only on what’s in the budget papers. And from that they would conclude there’s nothing unusual to see here.




Read more:
$500m for station car parks? Other transport solutions could do much more for the money


A new enthusiasm for equity investments

All these figures concern grants to state governments, which are responsible for transport networks. But, in addition to these grants, the federal government has developed an enthusiasm for funding projects “off-budget”. In the past two years, the Commonwealth made equity investments of A$9.3 billion in Inland Rail and A$5.3 billion in Western Sydney Airport.

The Charter of Budget Honesty states that an investment can be treated as an off-budget equity injection only if the government has a “reasonable expectation” of recovering the investment. In other words, the entity must be expected to make a positive return over time.

But this gives governments a lot of latitude. A positive rate of return is not the same as a commercial one. And there seems little likelihood of commercial returns in either case.

For Inland Rail, it’s no secret that the Australian Rail Track Corporation will never be asked to repay the A$9.3 billion, even when project revenues start to flow in 2025. Let’s hope the finance minister is right to insist there’s no prospect the project will need even more taxpayer support, despite the risks identified in the budget papers themselves and by the Commonwealth Auditor-General. With no expectation of repayment, there is no practical difference between this “equity investment” and a grant.

For Western Sydney Airport, the government decided to build the airport itself after Sydney Airport Corporation declined its right to build it. The airport operator said the offer as it stood was “deeply uneconomic”. It cited operational, traffic, financial and political risks.

So it’s hard to share the confidence of the then treasurer (and now prime minister), Scott Morrison, when he said the new airport will “generate an income stream that’s going to pay for itself”.

In both cases, if a future government ends up writing down the fair value of these assets, this will appear on the balance sheet as a change to “other economic flows”. It won’t be separately identified. Nor will the write-down show up in the underlying cash balance figure that the media spotlight highlights on budget night.

The unavoidable conclusion is that pushing transport spending off-budget seriously diminishes not only the discipline that comes from competing for funds through the budget process, but also transparency in how public money is being spent.




Read more:
A closer look at business cases raises questions about ‘priority’ national infrastructure projects


A foray into road pricing is stillborn

In November 2016 the government took an unusually bold step: it committed to holding an inquiry into road-user charging. The then minister for urban infrastructure, Paul Fletcher, was in good company. His commitment to commission a review led by an eminent Australian was in response to a 2016 recommendation from Infrastructure Australia, which invoked a similar recommendation in the 2015 Harper Review of competition policy, which in turn referred to a 2014 Productivity Commission recommendation. And the backdrop to all these reports was a recommendation of the 2010 Henry Tax Review.

But time passed and no eminent person was appointed. More time passed, ministers moved portfolio, and no eminent person was appointed. Finally, in October 2018, current minister Michael McCormack declined to commit to the inquiry.

An inquiry is no more than an inquiry, but a non-inquiry is a commitment to the status quo. Roads funding and roads investment are serious topics, and many commentators have argued that they are the laggards of regulatory reform.

A change to how road use is funded could significantly alter which roads are funded, what maintenance is done, and how networks are managed. It appears to have been all too much for this government. This task awaits a future government.




Read more:
Delay in changing direction on how we tax drivers will cost us all


The alternative government’s most important promises aren’t the sexy ones about electric vehicles. They are Labor’s promises that Infrastructure Australia should assess projects before the decision to invest, and to release assessed business cases. These promises may sound worthy and a little dull, but in reality they are big and welcome commitments.

Less obvious is how to square them with federal Labor’s promise to advance high-speed rail, or the promise to work with the Victorian premier “to deliver the visionary Melbourne Suburban Rail Loop”. Both of these are massively expensive projects with nothing approaching an assessed and publicly available business case.

It would be a significant improvement if whichever party wins government next month were to commit to, and follow through on, careful assessment of transport gaps and problems, consideration of the various feasible solutions, and rigorous evaluation of the preferred approach. And it’s not enough just to do this; it should be done in public.

Let’s hope.




Read more:
Missing evidence base for big calls on infrastructure costs us all


The Conversation


Marion Terrill, Transport and Cities Program Director, Grattan Institute

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

‘Fake news’ is already spreading online in the election campaign – it’s up to us to stop it


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Claims of ‘fake news’ and misinformation campaigns have already arisen in the federal election campaign, a problem the political parties and tech companies are ill-equipped to address.
Ritchie B. Tongo/EPA

Michael Jensen, University of Canberra

We’re only days into the federal election campaign and already the first instances of “fake news” have surfaced online.

Over the weekend, Labor demanded that Facebook remove posts it says are “fake news” about the party’s plans to introduce a “death tax” on inheritances. Labor also called on the Coalition to publicly disavow the misinformation campaign.

An inauthentic tweet purportedly sent from the account of Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus also made the rounds, claiming that she, too, supported a “death tax”. It was retweeted many times – including by Sky News commentator and former Liberal MP Gary Hardgrave – before McManus put out a statement saying the tweet had been fabricated.

What the government and tech companies are doing

In the wake of the cyber-attacks on the 2016 US presidential election, the Australian government began taking seriously the threat that “fake news” and online misinformation campaigns could be used to try to disrupt our elections.

Last year, a taskforce was set up to try to protect the upcoming federal election from foreign interference, bringing together teams from Home Affairs, the Department of Finance, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO).

The AEC also created a framework with Twitter and Facebook to remove content deemed to be in violation of Australian election laws. It also launched an aggressive campaign to encourage voters to “stop and consider” the sources of information they consume online.




Read more:
We’ve been hacked – so will the data be weaponised to influence election 2019? Here’s what to look for


For their part, Facebook and Twitter rolled out new features aimed specifically at safeguarding the Australian election. Facebook announced it would ban foreign advertising in the run-up to the election and launch a fact-checking partnership to vet the accuracy of information being spread on the platform. However, Facebook will not be implementing requirements that users wishing to post ads verify their locations until after the election.

Twitter also implemented new rules requiring that all political ads be labelled to show who sponsored them and those sending the tweets to prove they are located in Australia.

While these moves are all a good start, they are unlikely to be successful in stemming the flow of manipulative content as election day grows closer.

Holes in the system

First, a foreign entity intent on manipulating the election can get around address verification rules by partnering with domestic actors to promote paid advertising on Facebook and Twitter. Furthermore, Russia’s intervention in the US election showed that “troll” or “sockpuppet” accounts, as well as botnets, can easily spread fake news content and hyperlinks in the absence of a paid promotion strategy.

Facebook has also implemented measures that actually reduce transparency in its advertising. To examine how political advertising works on the platform, ProPublica built a browser plugin last year to collect Facebook ads and show which demographic groups they were targeting. Facebook responded by blocking the plugin. The platform’s own ad library, while expansive, also does not include any of the targeting data that ProPublica had made public.




Read more:
Russian trolls targeted Australian voters on Twitter via #auspol and #MH17


A second limitation faced by the AEC, social media companies, and government agencies is timing. The framework set up last year by the AEC to address content in possible violation of electoral rules has proven too slow to be effective. First, the AEC needs to be alerted to questionable content. Then, it will try to contact whoever posted it, and if it can’t, the matter is escalated to Facebook. This means that days can pass before the material is addressed.

Last year, for instance, when the AEC contacted Facebook about sponsored posts attacking left-wing parties from a group called Hands Off Our Democracy, it took Facebook more than a month to respond. By then, the group’s Facebook page had disappeared.



FOI request by ABC News, Author provided
Portions of AEC letter to Facebook legal team for Australia and New Zealand detailing steps for addressing questionable content, sent 30 August 2018.
FOI request by ABC News, Author provided

The length of time required to take down illegal content is critical because research on campaigning shows that the window of opportunity to shift a political discussion on social media is often quite narrow. For this reason, an illegal ad likely will have achieved its purpose by the time it is flagged and measures are taken to remove it.

Indeed, from 2015 to 2017, Russia’s Internet Research Agency, identified by US authorities as the main “troll farm” behind Russia’s foreign political interference, ran over 3,500 ads on Facebook with a median duration of just one day.

Even if content is flagged to the tech companies and accounts are blocked, this measure itself is unlikely to deter a serious misinformation campaign.

The Russian Internet Research Agency spent millions of dollars and conducted research over a period of years to inform their strategies. With this kind of investment, a determined actor will have gamed out changes to platforms, anticipated legal actions by governments and adapted its strategies accordingly.

What constitutes ‘fake news’ in the first place?

Finally, there is the problem of what counts as “fake news” and what counts as legitimate political discussion. The AEC and other government agencies are not well positioned to police truth in politics. There are two aspects to this problem.

The first is the majority of manipulative content directed at democratic societies is not obviously or demonstrably false. In fact, a recent study of Russian propaganda efforts in the United States found the majority of this content “is not, strictly speaking, ‘fake news’.”

Instead, it is a mixture of half-truths and selected truths, often filtered through a deeply cynical and conspiratorial worldview.

There’s a different issue with the Chinese platform WeChat, where there is a systematic distortion of news shared on public or “official accounts”. Research shows these accounts are often subject to considerable censorshipincluding self-censorship – so they do not infringe on the Chinese government’s official narrative. If they do, the accounts risk suspension or their posts can be deleted.. Evidence shows that official WeChat accounts in Australia often change their content and tone in response to changes in Beijing’s media regulations.




Read more:
Who do Chinese-Australian voters trust for their political news on WeChat?


For this reason, suggestions that platforms like WeChat be considered “an authentic, integral part of a genuinely multicultural, multilingual mainstream media landscape” are dangerously misguided, as official accounts play a role in promoting Beijing’s strategic interests rather than providing factual information.

The public’s role in stamping out the problem

If the AEC is not in a position to police truth online and combat manipulative speech, who is?

Research suggests that in a democracy, the political elites play a strong role in shaping opinions and amplifying the effects of foreign influence misinformation campaigns.

For example, when Republican John McCain was running for the US presidency against Barack Obama in 2008, he faced a question at a rally about whether Obama was “an Arab” – a lie that had been spread repeatedly online. Instead of breathing more life into the story, McCain provided a swift rebuttal.

After the Labor “death tax” Facebook posts appeared here last week, some politicians and right-wing groups shared the post on their own accounts. (It should be noted, however, that Hardgrave apologised for retweeting the fake tweet by McManus.)

Beyond that, the responsibility for combating manipulative speech during elections falls to all citizens. It’s absolutely critical in today’s world of global digital networks for the public to recognise they “are combatants in cyberspace”.

The only sure defence against manipulative campaigns – whether from foreign or domestic sources – is for citizens to take seriously their responsibilities to critically reflect on the information they receive and separate fact from fiction and manipulation.The Conversation

Michael Jensen, Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Poll wrap: Labor’s Newspoll lead falls to 51-49 on dubious assumptions as Palmer and Coalition do a deal



File 20190429 194633 1mrxn05.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Three weeks before the election, the UAP has been included in the party readout for the first time.
AAP/Glenn Hunt

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

With 19 days to go until election day, this week’s Newspoll, conducted April 26-28 from a sample of 2,140, gave Labor just a 51-49 lead, a one-point gain for the Coalition since last fortnight. Primary votes were 38% Coalition (down one), 37% Labor (down two), 9% Greens (steady), 5% for Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party (UAP) and 4% One Nation (steady).

Three weeks before the election, the UAP has been included in the party readout for the first time. Prior to this change, the tables show that the UAP had 2% support in the post-budget Newspoll and 3% last fortnight – they were previously published as Others. According to pollster David Briggs (paywalled), both UAP and One Nation preferences are assumed to flow at 60% to the Coalition.

Given results at the WA and Queensland 2017 elections and at the Longman 2018 federal byelection, where One Nation preferences flowed at over 60% to the Coalition, this assumption is justified for One Nation, and was the standard assumption from early 2018.

However, the UAP has no electoral record. At the 2013 election that Palmer contested under the Palmer United Party, PUP preferences split 53.7-46.3 to the Coalition. At that election, PUP recommended preferences to the Coalition in all House seats, the same situation as now, and the Labor government was on the nose.

45% were satisfied with Scott Morrison’s performance (steady) and 46% were dissatisfied (up two), for a net approval of -1. Bill Shorten’s net approval was up two points to -12, his best net approval since May 2016. Morrison led Shorten by 45-37 as better PM (46-35 last fortnight).

Morrison was trusted to keep campaign promises over Shorten by 41-38. In some evidence for UAP preferences splitting to the Coalition, UAP voters favoured Morrison on this question by 53-13, though this is from a subsample of about 100 UAP voters.

The change in party readout and the preference assumptions for UAP explain the narrowing in this poll from 52-48 to 51-49. But there has been a clear overall narrowing trend this year from the last three Newspolls of 2018, which were all 55-45 to Labor. Morrison’s relatively good ratings and greater distance from the events of last August are assisting the Coalition.

The Poll Bludger’s BludgerTrack currently has Labor winning 87 of the 151 seats on a 52.4-47.6 two party vote. The Coalition’s primary vote in Newspoll is 4% down from 2016, but preference changes since 2016 could assist the Coalition, and that is reflected in Newspoll. However, Ipsos polls have shown no difference between last election and respondent allocated preferences since Morrison became PM.




Read more:
Post-budget poll wrap: Coalition gets a bounce in Newspoll, but not in Ipsos or Essential


In economic news, the ABS reported on April 24 that there was zero inflation in the March quarter. While this was bad for the overall economy, it is good for consumers worried about the cost of living. Lower oil prices in late 2018 meant petrol prices fell in January, but have since increased.

YouGov Galaxy poll: 52-48 to Labor

A YouGov Galaxy poll for the Sunday News Ltd tabloids, conducted April 23-25 from a sample of 1,012, gave Labor a 52-48 lead, a one-point gain for the Coalition since late March. Primary votes were 37% Coalition (up two), 37% Labor (steady), 9% Greens (down one), 4% One Nation (down four), 4% UAP (steady) and 9% for all Others (up three). YouGov Galaxy also conducts Newspoll.

Voters were asked if they were impressed or unimpressed with the campaign performances of six party leaders, and all performed poorly. Morrison was the best with a 54-38 unimpressed score, Shorten had a 60-31 rating, Nationals leader Michael McCormack a 38-8 rating, Greens leader Richard Di Natale had a 44-13 unimpressed score, Pauline Hanson a 67-20 rating and Clive Palmer a horrible 69-17 unimpressed rating.

The many don’t knows for Di Natale and McCormack reflect that most people don’t know very much about them. While ratings for Morrison and Shorten would be based to some extent on their campaign performance, those for Hanson and Palmer are much more likely based on voters’ opinions of them before the campaign.

Palmer’s preference deal with the Coalition

Under a preference deal between Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party (UAP) and the Coalition, Palmer would direct preferences to the Coalition in House seats in return for Coalition preferences in the Senate. It is important to note that voters make the choices in both houses now, and can ignore preference recommendations.




Read more:
Grattan on Friday: All is forgiven in the Liberal embrace of Palmer


In 2013, Palmer recommended preferences to the Coalition in all seats, and they flowed to the Coalition by a 53.7-46.3 margin; his party won 5.5% of the national vote in the House. While this split was not more pro-Coalition, analyst Peter Brent suggests that Palmer voters were more inclined to preference Labor, and the preference recommendations had some impact.

If the UAP won 4% of the national vote and their preference recommendations convinced 10% of their voters who would otherwise preference Labor to preference the Coalition, the Coalition’s national two party vote would by 0.4% higher than otherwise.

However, this analysis ignores the risk of doing a deal with someone as disliked by the general public as Palmer. In a January Herbert seat Newspoll, 65% had a negative view of Palmer, and just 24% a positive view.




Read more:
Poll wrap: Coalition gains in first Newspoll of 2019, but big swings to Labor in Victorian seats; NSW is tied


So while a preference deal with Palmer could earn the Coalition some more preferences, it could also damage their overall primary vote, hurting them more than helping. Labor will attack Palmer over the sacked Queensland Nickel workers, and that could impact the Coalition’s support among people with a lower level of educational attainment.

Does early voting make a difference to the results?

Pre-poll voting booths for the election are open from today. Under Australia’s compulsory voting, people are required to vote, and those who vote early are unlikely to have voted differently if they voted on election day unless there was a dramatic late-campaign development. So there is likely to be little overall impact of early voting on the results. In voluntary voting systems like the US, early voting gives people who need to work on election day a greater opportunity to vote.




Read more:
Three weeks of early voting has a significant effect on democracy. Here’s why


If one party was trending up in the polls as election day approached, early voters will decide their vote earlier, and so the trend will also be reflected in early votes.

While early voting overall has little impact, the types of people who vote early can differ markedly from the election day vote. Big pre-poll booths will not report until very late on election night, and the results could change significantly depending on those booths – as happened in the October Wentworth byelection.




Read more:
Wentworth byelection called too early for Phelps as Liberals recover in late counting


The Conversation


Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.